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Manual Disruptions, a science fiction sampler

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Crawley, Tony. The Steven Spielberg Story. New York: Quill, Ebert, Roger and Gene Siskel. Eberwein, Robert T. Friedman, Lester D. Citizen Spielberg. Urbana: University of Illinois, Gordon, Andrew. Hillman, James. Irving, TX: Spring, 5— Kolker, Robert Phillip. New York: Oxford, Kris, Ernst. Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art. New York: Shocken, Lasch, Christopher. New York: Norton, Le Guin, Ursula K.

Susan Wood. McBride, Joseph. Steven Spielberg: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, Metz, Christian. The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, Morris, Nigel. London: Wallflower, Neale, Stephen. London: British Film Institute, Sobchack, Vivian. New York: Ungar, Wood, Robin. Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan. New York: Columbia, Wright, Will. Duel was an exercise in paranoia. MAKING DUEL Duel is a masterpiece of suspense, a simple, almost perfect movie: ninety minutes of road chase, a nightmare that barrels down the highway toward you with the inexorable power of a forty-ton truck.

And it is as a kind of anxiety dream, a study in paranoia, that I wish to consider Duel. The week after the movie aired on television, Spielberg received offers to direct feature films for various studios, but he was still under a seven-year contract to Universal. This may account for the in-joke in his film : the prize offered at the big dance contest is a seven-year contract with a Hollywood studio. After Duel won Special Mention at the twelfth Monte Carlo television festival, the film was released in European theaters in with added footage—four additional scenes—to bring it to ninety minutes, and it won prizes at several European film festivals but was not released in American theaters until It has since earned a cult following through cable showings and videotape.

In , the TV movie was a relatively new form, so there was room to experiment. Despite its low budget and tight shooting schedule, Duel is a small masterpiece of camera technique, editing, and suspense which wrings an audience dry. The script by Richard Matheson is based on his story from Playboy, a thriller about a timid businessman being chased down the highway by a giant oil tanker truck. When Spielberg read the story, it triggered memories of highway phobia when he first drove the California freeways as a teenager Crawley Like Jaws , for which it is a kind of rehearsal, Duel partakes of elements of both the Hitchcock thriller and the horror film.

Like most Spielberg films, Duel is a carefully calculated roller-coaster ride, programmed for thrills—although it also has a certain psychological profundity. All the elements work together to involve the audience and allow us to identify with the hero, an ordinary man forced beyond his limits when he is terrorized by a huge truck in a highway duel to the death as ritualized as a bullfight, suggesting that even insanity has its own nightmare logic.

The film is filled with surprises. The apparently psychopathic truck driver or perhaps the truck itself toys with the hero David Mann in a sadistic cat-and-mouse game, applying gradations of violence to initiate him into the code of the duel, gradually stripping away his civilized restraints until he is ready to kill or be killed. Similarly, Spielberg plays with his audience, tricking and shocking by gradually building suspense, momentarily slackening it, fooling us when we are off guard, and then screwing the tension to an almost unbearable level in the climax.

It is the film of a young man—Spielberg was only twenty-four-who delights in showing what he can do with a camera to tell a story. It is an almost purely visual film. Although it is not a slavish imitation of any particular Hitchcock film, the elements are recognizable: The hero is an ordinary man who is suddenly plunged into trouble by sheer happenstance. Chaos and violence erupt, totally disrupting his complacent routine. Macabre and bizarre events take place in broad daylight. Here is the cinematic return of the.

In Duel, as in the typical Hitchcock film, the hero is stripped of his secure, everyday identity and must prove his manhood by tapping hidden resources of endurance, resourcefulness, and courage. The driver of the truck is a shadowy presence, glimpsed only momentarily, in fragments: a hand on the steering wheel, an arm signaling out the window, the bottom of some jeans and boots. He is never viewed whole and his face is never seen.

As a result, the truck remains apparently driverless, and the hero seems pursued not by a human being but by a machine which embodies an irrational, demonic force. But beneath that elemental structure is a primal confrontation of man versus truck that, somewhat akin to the archetypal confrontation of man versus whale in Moby Dick, lends itself to many different interpretations. And I determined very early on that everything about the film would be the complete disruption of our whole technological society Spielberg criticizes not machines but the mechanization of life.

Second, Spielberg says that Duel is an indictment of suburbia. If so, Duel is a qualified indictment, for his suburban hero wins out in the end. In a sociological sense, David Mann is suburban man—a white-collar businessman in suit and tie, emasculated, passive, and harmless—challenged by a rural American, the truck driver—a bluecollar cowboy in boots and jeans, macho, aggressive, and deadly.

But the class conflict is posed in terms of the codes of the classic Western movie: the Easterner, a pale city fellow who lives by the rule of law, becomes a man only after winning a showdown with a Westerner, a rugged. He refused to rise to the bait. He saw the truck, almost inevitably, as a train without tracks. As for the film, why that was Godzilla vs. Spielberg was referring to the short animated cartoon, Bambi Meets Godzilla, a brief parody in which Bambi the deer peacefully grazes in a clearing in the woods until a giant foot enters the frame from above and squashes Bambi flat, ending the film.

His facetious reference points to the element of the fantastic in the film. As much as the film follows the patterns of the thriller or the Western, it is also based on the classic fairy-tale scenario of little man versus giant monster. The monster of fantasy and horror—the truck in Duel—is a floating signifier which one can interpret as one wishes. We know Mann is anxious about a contract and worried about his job; we see the fragility of his relationship with his wife; there are hints of economic anxiety and overprotectiveness about possessions like his car.

Duel is not only a chase story but also a psychological fable in the form of a paranoid nightmare for both hero and audience. The film begins like an anxiety dream in which you are prevented from getting to an important meeting by a series of frustrating delays. Then it turns into a real nightmare: you forget about the meeting because now you are fleeing from some implacable, unstoppable evil which is chasing you and wants to kill you for no apparent reason. Throughout Duel, Mann becomes progressively more isolated in his battle with the truck.

By the climax of the film, Mann realizes that he is on his own; no one is going to help him. He even comes at times to doubt his own perceptions and wonders if he is losing his grip. An old farmer who sees Mann crash into a fence is skeptical and amused when Mann claims that a truck was chasing him and tried to kill him. Impotence and humiliation are the order of the day for Mann; the film gives him the full treatment, enough to confirm his feeling that everyone is against him.

He is first humiliated in front of an old man who watches him stagger into the restaurant and then in front of the crowd in the restaurant who witness his bizarre behavior and enjoy his defeat in the fight. Their laughter at him only increases his feeling of being persecuted, of receiving no respect as a man. As they say: even paranoids can have real enemies.

Yet on another level he is deluded and frequently acts on mistaken premises because he begins to sense threat everywhere: he attacks the wrong man in the restaurant, and he assumes the truck will harm the school bus when it actually turns around to help. The threat may be real, yet, in another sense, the truck is symptomatic of the eruption of his deepest fears. Mann is predisposed to paranoia. The nightmare will continue. The probing, subjective camera, the close-ups, and the eerie music emphasize his mental distress and heighten the suspense in this scene.

Mann sits isolated in a booth, trying to hide his face behind a hand as he nervously scans a solid phalanx of the enemy:. All the faces seem to glare at him in hostile close-ups. The tension builds until Mann provokes an assault by a driver. We become like Mann, victims of our heightened awareness of danger, unable to trust our perceptions, subject to delusions. Once the director induces paranoia in the hero and the audience, he can play such tricks at will.

There is also an unexplained detail in that scene: while Mann eyes the truckers, a man in a blue work shirt plays pool with a buxom blonde in a short red dress. We see the woman in some other shots, too: she seems to be a loose woman associated with the truckers. Positing an unacknowledged homosexual conflict is one way to explain the symbolism of a little car being pursued all over the California highways by a giant oil tanker bent on ramming it from behind. Mann continually scans the mirror, afraid of an imminent assault from the rear.

It is not that he is attracted to men but that he feels like less than a man because he is dominated by women. After the first close-ups of the driver, the soundtrack on the radio changes. Now it changes to a talk show and the first suggestion of the abnormal. You know how women are before you marry them. Suddenly, they become so aggressive. I mean, she became so aggressive after.

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Just took over everything. But that woman just drives me up the wall and over the other side. Emphasis added. Later, we see that, despite his amusement at the radio caller, Mann resembles this pathetic wimp, and that he, too, has problems containing his anger at his wife and himself, so the duel becomes a way to release his rage about his emasculation.

The protagonist, who is not so much driver as driven, becomes identified with the henpecked man and the truck with his wife—or, by the logic of misogyny, with all women. As Mann pulls up to a pump, the truck pulls in also, dwarfing his car. The truck looms ominously throughout the scene, many of the shots favoring it, and twice it impatiently blats its horn for service. Mann then calls his wife from a laundromat, revealing his anxiety and anger.

But, honey, I think you could have at least said something to the man last night. I mean, after all The call, which began as his apology, has only worsened things. Throughout this scene, Mann is further diminished and trapped visually, framed in a long shot in a narrow space between the telephone on the wall and a table. He props his leg against the table but has to remove it to let a fat lady pass to get her clothes from a dryer in the foreground.

For much of the shot, Mann is further framed within the circle of the open dryer window, which makes him look like a specimen under glass Mott and Saunders The fat lady and the dryer, the wife on the phone, and the mother coming to visit: these make up the world of women which imprisons him. And looming above him is the image of the truck. That seems true of the protagonist of Duel. The phone call suggests that his duel with the truck replaces the fist fight with Henderson, the meeting with Forbes, and the dinner with wife and mother, all of which he cannot carry out.

The truck is, in fact, as overbearing, griping, and demanding as his wife and Forbes, as intrusive as his mother, as aggressive as Henderson, and as oppressive and elusive as Forbes. The enormous bulk of the truck —emphasized by slow and low traveling shots, shots with it filling the screen or driving aggressively toward us, or numerous shots where it dwarfs the car—suggests the size of the threat Mann is avoiding. The situation in the laundromat is repeated in the restaurant when Mann meets a kindly, grey-haired waitress old enough to be his mother.

We hear. He is indecisive as she stands and looks down on him, awaiting his order. In one shot, her arm dangles into the right-hand side of the frame, reminding us of the fat lady in the laundromat. And in another shot, we see the truck through the window, in the background behind her; the waitress is another woman or mother figure associated with that malevolent truck.

Like the waitress, she is grey-haired and friendly, and we pity her when the truck smashes her snake tanks. But the scene is touched with macabre humor: Mann brushes a tarantula off his pants, and we last see the lady with a snake in her hands, a parody of a distraught mother holding a sick child. The final woman Mann encounters is the worst of all. Mann flags down a car driven by an old man and his wife to ask them to call the police. They look like kindly grandparents, but the old man is reluctant to get involved. As Mann desperately begs for help, the woman panics and orders her husband to drive off, repeating the pattern of the weak man and the domineering woman.

The couple resemble Mann and his wife; on another level, however, they are the bad parents. Once they leave, he finally realizes that no one is going to rescue him, and he heads back to his car for the climactic showdown. The truck combines the internalized persecuting imagoes of both sexes and both parents: it is both persecuting phallus and smothering breast.

One interesting aspect of his duel with the truck is that he seems to wish it. First, he deliberately provokes the truck, responding to its dangerous highway games by playing stupid passing games of his own. Next, at many points he could have driven to a police station, stopped his journey entirely, or turned around and gone home. All this suggests that the truck represents his own psychic projection, and that the threat it symbolizes has a peculiar personal urgency for Mann.

There are yet more possible levels of meaning associated with the persecuting force in paranoia. Before the day is over, however, he will be reduced to a sweaty, bloodstained wreck, and his car will be dirtied, bashed, scratched, pounded, dented, and finally totally demolished. When he first sees the truck, it offends him: he is in his clean, shiny car, stuck behind a large, dirty tanker spewing exhaust fumes from its stack Mott and Saunders Dead grasshoppers in the grille.

When the truck topples over a cliff at the end, the revenge is psychologically appropriate; one might say that Mann has eliminated the persecuting object by excreting it. Truck and unseen driver seem to be a single unit, a blend of machine and man. The truck is a horror movie monster with some human dimension albeit psychopathic. I thought that with some remodeling we could really get it to look human. I had the art director add two tanks to both sides of the door The death throes of the truck are given monumental significance through its slow-motion fall down a cliff. Through shots of the still spinning wheels and oil dripping like blood, we are invited to observe the destroyed truck as though it were a dying creature.

Critics have compared the menacing machine in Duel to wild animals such as a wolf, shark, or dinosaur. All this possible symbolism is not contradictory but mutually reinforcing; it enriches the symbolic suggestiveness of the evil truck through layers of overdetermined meaning. The movie may be carefully programmed, but it affords us a great deal of imaginative latitude. We project onto the truck our own nightmare fears and battle alongside Mann against our worst private demons.

Duel offers the pleasures of suspense and of mastering anxiety. For example, the film may seem misogynistic on the surface, but its terrors are so free-floating that any viewer, male or female, can translate them into personal terms. One woman viewer told me she assumed the unseen truck driver was a woman. She rooted for the truck, perhaps seeing it as a projection of her own desire for revenge against men.

But I assume most viewers will root for the hero to stop being a wimp, for in his assertion of manhood lies our hope to defeat our personal demons. Duel is a nightmare assaulting us in broad daylight. Spielberg may not be as intellectually challenging a filmmaker as Hitchcock, but he is an extremely skillful craftsman who knows which buttons to push to engage the audience on a primal level. He must be very well acquainted with the territory of phobias, nightmares, and paranoid anxiety to have made a film as riveting as Duel.

NOT ES 1 The made-for-TV movie differs from the Hollywood feature by usually having a lower budget, less preproduction, shooting, and postproduction time, lower-paid stars normally television rather than movie actors , more closeups for the smaller screen, and an episodic structure building to numerous dramatic climaxes to allow for commercial breaks.

Because of advertisements, it is also usually shorter than a Hollywood movie. Richard Corliss says twelve days. Selected Papers of Karl Abraham. Aldiss, Brian. Bianculli, David. Interview with Steven Spielberg. Starlog, January , , Brode, Douglas. The Films of Steven Spielberg. New York: Citadel Press, Review of E. Time, May 31, , Fenichel, Otto. The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis. Freud, Sigmund. Philip Rieff. New York: Collier, Greenberg, Harvey R.

The Movies on Your Mind. New York: Dutton, King, Stephen. Danse Macabre. New York: Everest House, Klein, Melanie. Envy and Gratitude and Other Works, — New York: Delacorte, Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works, — Larson, Randall D. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, Meissner, W. The Paranoid Process. New York: Jason Aronson, Mott, Donald R.

Steven Spielberg. Boston, MA: Twayne, Palmer, Jerry. Thrillers: Genesis and Structure of a Popular Genre. New York: St. Pye, Michael and Lynda Myles. New York: Holt, Snyder, Thomas Lee. Taylor, Philip. New York: Continuum, Tuchman, Mitch. Friedman and Brent Notbohm. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, Todorov, Tzvetan. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University, Jaws Hydrophobia The film hit a nerve somewhere. Horror in those decades was becoming aware of its own tradition and often paid homage to or parodied its predecessors even as it incorporated elements of other movie genres, including adventure films, Westerns, family dramas, and science fiction Sobchack.

Moreover, as a fable of man versus sea monster it has mythic overtones in a tradition going back to the Bible Leviathan, Jonah and the whale , Beowulf, and Moby Dick. In particular, Jaws has interested ideological critics as a test case of a contemporary American film inculcating white male, bourgeois, patriarchal values. But I want to suggest ways in which Jaws might also be usefully approached in terms of depth psychology. Most Hollywood horror movies, like other Hollywood genres, are conservative, but filmgoers do not select horror films primarily for ideological reassurance but for deeper psychological reasons.

When I first saw Jaws in , I was so scared by the opening sequence that I wanted to race out of the theater in a panic. Yet I stayed till the end of Jaws. Why did I stay? This leads to some larger questions: What brings us to horror movies in the first place? How do they make us feel? What shocks us and what defends us as we view them?

Horror is the only genre named for an emotion; horror is measured by the visceral response of the viewer. One way to consider horror movies is to say that they provide safe nightmares. Horror films are like roller-coaster rides: they give you a safe, controlled scare, a series of carefully programmed shocks and surprises, taking you to the limit and back home again.

They are designed to make you want to repeat the experience. The screams of a horror film audience and of roller-coaster riders are as much shrieks of delight as they are of fear. Horror films release repressed and forbidden material while carefully defending against that material.

The paradox of horror movies is that they seem to produce pleasure through anxiety. Perhaps anxiety is central to the pleasure of the viewing because we want to pay for indulging repressed desires, or perhaps it is because the physiological responses to fear are similar to those for. For some viewers, the line between pleasure and unpleasure stretches so thin that the material of the film becomes too raw to manage, the anxiety too close to the real thing to bear. But a successful horror film enables most viewers to master the anxieties it unleashes.

My tension and expectancy build with the music. I am underwater, or is it in the territory of the unconscious? I see what the shark sees as it restlessly swims in search of food; the movement of the camera is a stalking rhythm. Spielberg also uses subjective camera at the beginning of Duel and E. There is precedent for this device in horror films such as Creature from the Black Lagoon [] and Psycho []. At the same time, I am denied knowledge of the shark because I cannot see it.

The shark is in a position of power: it sees, but itself remains unseen. As the shark theme peaks, the music ceases, and the location abruptly changes from the cold underwater world to a warm beach scene: a group of young men and women enjoying a party at night around a campfire.

The camera pans across them as they talk, laugh, sing, and enjoy oral pleasures, such as kissing and drinking. The pan stops at one young man who is facing away from the group, gazing at something offscreen. He too is engaged in oral activity, alternately drinking beer and smoking a cigarette or is it a joint? He is eyeing a woman who sits apart from the rest; from his point of view, she smiles back at him. I see her through his gaze, as the shark sees its victims. I begin to wonder if the young man is another shark cruising for prey. But the real shark proves more potent and gets the girl instead?

There is also disarming comedy: the woman Chrissie laughs as she strips; the man Tom is so drunk he topples head over heels, laughing at himself. I see her nude silhouette and anticipate sexual pleasure. But from the opening scene, I know more than they do: that the water is dangerous. The man is temporarily helpless from drink; the woman races ahead, outstripping him in more than one sense, and he stumbles behind, too drunk to undress. He collapses near the water and soon falls asleep.

But the first man we meet in the film cannot perform: he cannot keep up with the woman, enter the water, rescue her, or make love to her. This failure seems to affect all the men in Jaws. The novel Jaws by Peter Benchley had sex scenes, but the only sex in the film is enacted by the shark. Soon my senses are assaulted by shocking violence: symbolic rape, dismemberment, and death. The scene seems sexually sadistic. Instead of passion, I get pain. Is the woman being punished for her sexual liberation, for her foolishness in swimming alone, or for her poor choice of a partner?

Is the audience being punished? In this opening sequence, as in Duel, Spielberg is inspired by Hitchcock. We have many of the same elements as the shower scene in Psycho: the sexual frisson of the beautiful naked blonde, mixed with suspense and terror at her vulnerability, and the killer, announced by a point-of-view shot.

In both scenes, pleasure, relaxation, and sensuality are transformed into pain, terror, and violent death. Hitchcock and Spielberg turn us into voyeurs and implicate us in a violent attack which is equated with a sexual act. The pattern of building suspense and then releasing it through a climax of incredible violence could also be said to mimic sexual arousal and orgasm. Both films had a tremendous influence on the public by making an ordinary activity suddenly seem terrifying: just as Psycho made people afraid to take showers, so Jaws made them afraid to swim in the ocean.

Jaws increases the violence over Psycho, since the shower murder takes place well into the movie, whereas Jaws opens with the attack. Spielberg learned from Hitchcock some of the techniques for grabbing an audience viscerally and teaching it not to relax. Like the shower scene in Psycho, the opening of Jaws instills a sense of tension and dread so that I constantly anticipate danger. I never intended anything deeper than that Spielberg certainly succeeded in shocking me with his electric cattle prod.

When I first saw Jaws, the opening scene, as I said, appalled me. It was not only the visual impact of the attack but the cries for help and screams of pain of the young woman that affected me: I felt helpless. The impulse is to rush to aid a screaming person; even if you are watching a play or a movie, you want someone to stop the pain. But here I knew no one would.

Only a quick death would bring relief, but this scene was thrusting the agony at me, close up, and prolonging it. I wondered why I was subjecting myself to this and if I was going to be able to tolerate the rest of the movie, given an opening this shocking. But I would have felt foolish walking out on a movie that had just started. I had come with friends, the theater was filled, and millions of people had already enjoyed this movie.

It was a socially approved experience; it was critically acclaimed. I could always avert my eyes or cover my face during the shocking parts, as I had done as a kid. And after such an opening, what would happen next? So I stayed. Spielberg gives interludes of calm so that the audience can recover, and he carefully spaces out the shocks. Thus nothing else in the film was as painful as the opening scene although the gruesome death of Quint came close. People attend these movies repeatedly out of a desire to master their fears. Most horror movies since Jaws are far more grisly.

It was many years before I saw Jaws again; the initial shock was greatly diminished by time and familiarity. Jaws now seems relatively tame compared to the explicit gore of such series as the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the Thirteenth movies. But perhaps to overcome my initial fear, I have viewed it repeatedly and studied it carefully to understand how it scared me so much. Hitchcock works by indirection: rapid, shock cutting gives only fragmented images through which we are allowed to imagine the attack. We never see the killer clearly or the knife actually striking the victim.

Spielberg does not rely on rapid cutting to fragment the action; instead, he uses relatively long takes. The camera moves very little; rather, the victim is dragged back and forth across the screen, and we get intimate closeups of her violent movement and her agonized face. The emotions invoked in the viewer are multiple: as a heterosexual male, I read the provocative shots of her torso as sexual invitation, but I know the shark reads it as another kind of provocation, an invitation to attack.

I become apprehensive, not only about the imminent attack, but also about my own male responses, which are voyeuristically indulged and simultaneously condemned by implication as sharklike and carnivorous. Once the attack commences, the viewer sees only what is happening above the water. Jaws cinematographer Bill Butler invented a water box to float the camera exactly at water level to film the attack Buckland The unnatural movement of the woman across the screen is terrifying. Her torso is rapidly propelled, several times, back and forth across the surface of the water in a way no human body could move on its own.

The effect of this rapid movement across the frame would have been vitiated had Spielberg used rapid cutting or a moving camera. As the camera setups graphically demonstrate, she is in the grip of some huge force which is moving her like a puppet, but we cannot see the monstrous puppeteer.

Not only is the attacker invisible, but so are the underwater effects of its attack. Even before the attack, when the woman first begins swimming, there is a provocative shot of her leg rising above the water as her body disappears below it. This is a teasing shot in many senses: it is meant to tease her male companion; it also teases heterosexual male viewers in the audience; and we know that she is unintentionally tempting the shark. And once the shark arrives, Spielberg continues to tease with the presence and absence of the. The shark displays all the characteristics Harvey Greenberg lists for a successful horror film creature.

It is violent, ruthless and implacable in its assaults in an inhuman way, ungraspable unseen or only glimpsed briefly, in fragments , lewd it is a voyeur and a rapist , and yet strangely beautiful Greenberg Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility I admire its purity. A survivor. Unencumbered by conscience, emotions, or delusions of morality. Unstoppable and seemingly unkillable, it terrorizes an entire town and outwits many shark hunters. It comes to seem omniscient and omnipresent beneath the water, and we never know where or when it will strike next.

In its first attack, we cannot see the shark, only evidence of its ruthless implacability and inhuman power. The attack is agonizingly prolonged. In the first phase, the woman is dragged across the water. She reaches the bell buoy and clings to it for a respite; we hope the attack is over. But a second phase commences, which does not end until she is pulled under for the last time. Abruptly, all the screaming, music, and violent, churning motion cease. We hear only the distant clanging of the bell and see only the placid surface of the water.

But this unruffled calm is now charged with the menace of the unseen. Jaws: All-devouring, a perfect organism. It seems to me that Jaws triggers many different primitive fears and fantasies in the viewer; thus there are a number of different yet mutually compatible ways of considering the opening sequence. For example, according to Dennis Giles, horror cinema reveals the monster or horrifying object but also defends us against it through concealment.

Jaws teases us with glimpses of a horrible, taboo violence which we want to see but at the same time do not really want to see or acknowledge desiring to see. As a fantasy about oral incorporation, the opening sequence seems to enact what Bertram D. The shark attack leads to fantasies and fears about sex as being devoured. It is also possible to interpret the opening sequence of Jaws in Kleinian terms.

According to Melanie Klein, very young children have sadistic fantasies about copulation between the parents as a mutual oral devouring. The child imagines the mother as somehow devouring the penis and retaining it inside her, where it persists as a destructive force.

The child wants to see for itself what is happening inside the mother. In a male, oedipal scenario, he penetrates inside her to rescue her and slay the destroyer. This fantastic scenario is one possible way to read Jaws, seeing the shark as a floating, destructive penis, an oral devourer within the body of the mother the ocean. It was a horrifying thought to be part of the food chain. Combs Thus, on one level, the film is about ourselves, or our fantasies about our most primitive, sharklike selves: the fetus in the womb or the infant at the breast.

The opening attack in some ways seems to me more horrible than the murder in Psycho because the killer is inhuman: the victim is not only mutilated or killed; she is also devoured. Yet in other ways, we are well defended by the opening of Jaws. First, the scene is bloodless. Second, the touches of comedy are amusing and disarming. Third, we are detached and can even perversely enjoy the killing. We know the victim well in Psycho—she is the heroine of the film—and Hitchcock spends considerable time making us sympathize with her before she is suddenly stabbed to death in the shower.

But Chrissie is dispatched right after she is introduced; she is a stranger to us and also to her drunken companion. Thomson chooses a sadistic stance toward the opening sequence, forgetting that the girl has a name: she tells the young man she is called Chrissie. In contrast to Thomson, Biskind detaches himself from the violence intellectually and aesthetically. There are sexual cues throughout the scene, but in the context of horror, they become turned into a. Just as the shots split the scene into killer below the water, young woman above the water, and young man on the beach, so we may shift between shark, victim, and detached bystander the drunken, helpless young man becomes a stand-in for the immobile audience.

Out of the three, any viewer can construct a defensive stance toward the scene, which may be sadistic, masochistic, or detached, or some mix of these elements. There is no gradual buildup, as there is in Duel. Instead, the shock effect of the opening immediately initiates the viewer, suggests the rules of the game Spielberg is playing, and introduces the psychological elements that will be developed in the rest of the movie.

Many critics have asserted that Jaws is a violent fantasy that plays on castration anxiety. This is not surprising for a film based on a novel by a man Peter Benchley , with a screenplay by a group of men Benchley, Carl Gottleib, Howard Sackler, and John Milius, among others , produced by two men Richard Zanuck and David Brown , and directed by a man Steven Spielberg. There is only one leading lady Ellen Brody , and in the last half of the film, there are no women at all, just the trio of heroes Brody, Hooper, and Quint and the shark.

So I intend to look at the film as a masculine one, although in certain ways as in the relationship between Quint and Hooper the film mocks machismo. But to see Jaws solely as a white male fantasy does not fully explain its popularity with a huge audience, both young and old, male and female. I have suggested that Jaws may trigger in some viewers sadistic fantasies about copulation as oral devouring. Such fantasies are not exclusively male or female in origin. The hero of Jaws, Police Chief Brody, is hydrophobic afraid of getting in the water. He would have to begin as a man who lets others shape his decisions, even to the point where those decisions cost people their lives; he would have to discover his flaw, struggle to correct it, and emerge at the end of the picture as a man who has faced up to the demons inside him and conquered them while at the same time subjecting himself to the gruesomest sort of physical danger.

Gottleib 69 Brody is presented from the outset as having a problem with his masculine identity. Almost until. Like David Mann in Duel, Brody is a wimp pushed to the limits by a superhuman threat until, in the final showdown, he is deprived of all aid and must confront the menace alone and prove his manhood by killing or being killed. So he retreated to Amity, a New England summer resort town on an island: But in Amity, one man can make a difference. Ironically, Amity is no safe haven; instead, it proves to be a kind of Wild West. Like the sheriff in High Noon , Brody is the only lawman in town, and he discovers he can expect no help from the craven Mayor or the panicked townspeople.

Jaws, like Duel, borrows from the situations and codes of the Western. In Amity, he is made to feel even more helpless than in New York. As a passive watcher, subjected to scenes of horrible violence, but paralyzed into inaction, Brody is a stand-in for the audience at a horror movie. He is like the dreamer in a nightmare who cannot move although terrible danger threatens. The movie makes us want him to overcome his paralysis.

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Brody fails to act because he is a newcomer to Amity and his job is insecure, because he has a phobia about water, but primarily because he typically responds to stress with passivity, withdrawal, depression, and drinking. Hooper finds Brody at home, deadening his guilt with whiskey. Later, after his elder son is hospitalized for shock from a shark encounter, Brody hands his sleepy younger son to his wife: BRODY: Want to take him home?

This is a turning point: Brody will no longer retreat from danger, even if it means facing his worst fear by going to sea to kill the shark. Although our sympathies are with the underdog Brody, because he is so passive or inept he is overshadowed for much of the film by the more forceful Hooper and Quint. Hooper snaps him out of his depression and self-pity, forces him to overcome his fear of the sea and to act, and allies with him in the battle against the Mayor and the hunt for the shark.

Only at the very end, when Quint is dead, Hooper is underwater in his scuba gear, the boat is sinking, and Brody is alone, does Brody show his heroic potential. The phobia about water which paralyzes Brody could be defensive and represent the side of the character or of the viewer which does not really want to know his own desire.

Thus the persistent teasing maneuver in the film between the desire to know and not to know, to see and not to see, between the surface of the water and what lies beneath. After the attack, from the long shot of the bell buoy and the calm surface of the sea, the camera pans slightly right and there is a dissolve to the same seascape in daylight.

A large black object fills most of the frame and temporarily blocks our view. We are momentarily disoriented until the object resolves into the silhouette of a head and shoulders framed against the sea. It is Brody looking out his bedroom window as he arises in the morning. This striking introduction to Brody makes him loom large against the sea, which now is charged with menace. The previous scene ended with the young man falling asleep against the background of the sea, and this one begins with Brody waking up against the sea.

However, we soon see that his nightmare is just beginning. After the initial nighttime horror comes a daytime scene of comforting domesticity: Brody gets up groggily and converses with his wife, who lies in bed, a dog perched on her blanket. This establishes the structuring pattern of the first half of the film, in which the terrifying alternates with the domestic, until the horror comes to intrude upon and dominate the home. We go from the couple on the beach to Brody and his wife; the narrative link suggests that the Brodys are also potential victims of the shark. But the male and female positions of the first scene are reversed: now the woman is lying down and the man is active, suggesting that he is the one more at risk.

Jaws: The terrifying alternates with the domestic. Then, as Brody receives a call about the missing woman, in the background Michael asks his mother if he can go swimming. Our initial impression of the Brodys is of a close, loving family, but already we fear for their safety. For example, unlike the novel, Brody and his family are present when Alex Kinter is killed, Mrs. He is made both more sympathetic and vulnerable than in the novel as well as more heroic at the end.

In the beginning, Brody is isolated and outnumbered by the Mayor and his cronies, who do everything possible to deny the shark threat and to keep the beaches open. The Mayor keeps cramping Brody, upstaging and countermanding him. The Mayor too is eager to maintain his territory. As Brody strides through the town to the tune of a marching band in an onscreen parade , about to close the beach, he is followed hard on his heels by the Mayor and the newspaper editor, who want the beach open. The coroner, who phoned Brody to verify that the young woman was the victim of a shark attack, has also contacted his friends, the town leaders.

As Brody is about to board the ferry to warn some swimming Boy Scouts, he is overtaken by the Mayor, the newspaper editor, and the coroner.

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Aboard the ferry, the Mayor and his group gang up on Brody, three against one, and he is pinned to the extreme left in a tightly framed shot. Intimidated, Brody capitulates. Later, in the town council meeting, the Mayor is again surrounded by his male cronies, the selectmen. Brody is physically apart from this group, and his isolation is emphasized by showing him in one-shots. In the town meeting, the Mayor puts Brody on the spot by making him the bearer of the bad news about closing the beaches. The Mayor himself then announces the good news: the closing will only be for twenty-four hours.

Thus he makes Brody the fall guy, undercutting and betraying him. The universal revulsion at blackboard screech may derive from animal instinct: the sound resembles the warning cries of macaque monkeys. Quint issues a warning and a challenge to the crowd, although an ambiguous warning, as much against himself and the danger he represents as against the shark.

He sits alone, deliberately apart from the crowd, in the back of the hall, and he takes them by surprise, just as the shark takes his victims. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. Later we find that, like the shark, Quint is missing a tooth. From his first scene, Quint is identified with the shark; in his final, gruesome death scene, it is as if Quint so identifies with the shark that he merges with it. Brody must battle not only the shark and his own fears but also these two men: the Mayor on land in the first half of the film and Quint at sea in the second half.

Quint is like Captain Ahab, so obsessed with his vendetta against the shark that he risks his boat, his life, and the lives of his crew. Brody later finds himself caught between the threat of the shark and the threat of Quint. In one scene, he flees the pulpit of the boat because of its proximity to the shark, only to almost run into the. He frightens her, and she exits the film running away from the harbor. Thus, in his final scene, the Mayor has a nervous breakdown, babbling to himself, and out of focus in the shot while Brody is in sharp focus. The broken Mayor signs the paper that Brody thrusts in front of him.

Brody has finally overpowered him, so the Mayor exits the film. Quint now replaces the Mayor as father figure and as an obstacle. Hooper also argues with Quint, echoing the earlier scene in which Hooper became angry at the Mayor. As the film switches from implicit to explicit horror, the scene has great effect because of the earlier tease between seeing and not-seeing. The death of Quint combines symbolic overtones of sexual intercourse, the primal scene, and castration.

It is the doom Quint had predicted for himself in his chilling speech, the longest in the film, about his survival in World War II of the sinking of the Indianapolis, most of whose crew were eaten by sharks. Again, the context is drinking and hunting, combined with a comic matching of scars between Quint and Hooper, and climaxed by a song.

Lionel Tiger claims that male bonding came about through hunting activities. Certain violent activities of groups of men, such as hunting, fishing, or warfare, lead to bonding which can break down traditional hierarchies and create a camaraderie with perhaps a homoerotic tinge. Drink helps to consummate the bond Tiger 70, After they cooperate in their first encounter with the shark, the three men celebrate, and the class-based hostility between Quint and Hooper temporarily disappears.

Their bonding has begun with hunting and is sealed with drink, the comic contest of masculine prowess, and song. Jaws: Male bonding of Quint, Brody, and Hooper. Nevertheless, the alliance among the three is only temporary; Quint, Hooper, and Brody form an unstable triangle. Brody and Hooper were friends before meeting Quint and saw each other as the forces of sanity battling madness: not simply the shark, but the irrational behavior of the Mayor and the townspeople. Although Brody and Hooper appear sane by comparison with such characters as the Mayor and Quint, they are not free of mental quirks.

Brody has his phobia about the water, and Hooper is a selfproclaimed shark lover, ever since a shark nearly ate him when he was a boy. He even goes so far as to offer himself as bait in the cage shark teasing Films about male comrades or male bonding must also defend against the. At first, Brody and Hooper appear to be best buddies. Quint, who wants total control, initially sees Hooper as a threat. In another sense, if Quint is schoolyard bully, then Hooper is class clown, mocking Quint and mugging behind his back.

Brody, the landlubber, Quint treats with paternal contempt.

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There is a similarity between the paranoia of David Mann in Duel and the phobia of Chief Brody in Jaws: both conditions are manifestations of excessive anxiety, except that in paranoia the fear is provoked by people whereas in phobia the fear is a reaction to a specific situation. Mann is being pursued by a killer truck and Brody has good reason to be afraid of the water because of the shark.

The two men are fearful not so much because of the menace; instead, the menace is tailor-made to fit their fears. In both scenes, the hero scans an environment where danger seems everywhere and is helpless against the threat. Both scenes throw in false clues to mislead us as they build tension to a climax. In Jaws, Brody has just been ordered by the Mayor not to close the beaches. Now Brody sits on the beach, ostensibly out for a day of relaxation with his wife and kids, but actually there because of his nervous fear of what may happen.

Because of his phobia, the jittery Brody is unable to enter the water, and because of the official coverup, he is unable to warn anyone of the danger. It is an impossible situation because, caught in an approach-avoidance bind, there is nothing Brody can do except watch helplessly. The camera singles out a series of figures: will it be the fat lady?

As Brody watches, once again we are teased by what we can and cannot see. Along with him, we strain to see, and the partial and blocked vision causes him and us to misread: what we take to be a shark fin turns out to be a grey bathing cap, and a shrieking woman an echo of the opening scene is merely being lifted in the water by her playful boyfriend. Everything becomes ominous and threatening. Even as Brody is temporarily paralyzed, rooted to his chair with shock and disbelief, the shot thrusts him forward, as if pushing him into the water he fears so much Derry The shot expresses both his physical paralysis and his emotional dizziness.


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To Robert P. Phobic anxiety creates an involuntary physiological response, like that evoked by any strong fear, which can include rapid breathing, dry mouth, dizziness, faintness, inability to move, and a sensation of impending death. Brody suffers from phobic paralysis, and Hooper who sometimes seems to be an extension of Brody often suffers from heavy breathing and dry mouth. In defense, the afflicted person tries to avoid the phobic situation whenever possible Mavissakalian and Barlow 2. Moreover, whenever anyone mentions his phobia, he becomes so uncomfortable that he quickly changes the subject.

Freud believed that phobia was a symbolic disguise, akin to dreaming Freud, Introductory Lectures The ego flees a desire it believes dangerous, the repressed desire is converted into anxiety, and the anxiety is connected with some external danger Brody claims to be afraid of drowning, but the film does not play on that fear; instead, it induces an irrational fear of sea bathing out of the extremely remote possibility of being eaten by a shark. Or is it a fear of our own oral sadism? According to the psychiatrist Bertram D.

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That is, regression to oral sadism could lead to a fear of oral punishment, as in Jaws. Moreover, the sea is commonly considered feminine, a mother symbol. The fear of the water could also mask anxiety about a desire to merge with the mother or to return to the womb. In the first half of the film, woman are punished: Chrissie Watkins, Mrs. Kintner, and Mrs. In the second half, women are absent but might be said to be there all the more eloquently for their absence, as Michael. Ryan and Douglas Kellner argue. Caputi argues that the shark represents the archetype of the Terrible Mother which must be ritualistically killed by the men.

Aside from representing the infant in the oral sadistic phase, it may also represent a fantastic image of the avenging father. Bertram D. The theories of Melanie Klein allow us to combine these two fantasy images: the shark as infant in the womb and the shark as father. This fear has a bearing, I think, on various forms of claustrophobia. These fears have paralyzed Brody. These include not only castration anxiety but also a more generalized fear of damage to the body, as well as oral sadistic fantasies, fears relating to sexuality, and fears and desires about returning to the womb.

In the first half of the film, we may get a certain guilty pleasure in watching victim after victim devoured; the second half expunges our guilt through the sea adventure and the final destruction of the monster. In the first half, the shark is a mysterious, unseen presence; in the second half, it is gradually revealed, and we come to fear it less. Our identification with Brody, who overcomes his phobia through aversion therapy and kills the sadistic monster through a symbolically appropriate revenge he shoots it in the mouth , enables us to triumph vicariously over our own fears, as in Duel.

The psychological power of Jaws is that it is both about being the shark and defeating the shark. Jaws swallows us whole, and we love it. But Spielberg would be most familiar with the opposition between wilderness and community from Western films. And the climactic confrontation—lone man with a rifle in a showdown with the villain—is a classic Western scene.

Biskind, Peter.


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  • They know it has happened before. Photograph by Greg Miller On the northwest side of Woods Hole's Quissett campus, in a dim laboratory that smells like low tide, about 24, polycarbonate tubes full of greenish-tan mud rest in wire racks, as carefully cataloged as fine wines. They are core samples collected from seafloors, many collected during expeditions by the Knorr, one of Woods Hole's three largest research ships.

    Each core tells a story about time and temperature spanning thousands of years. But one particular core, kept carefully refrigerated at 39 degrees Fahrenheit, was pivotal for reaching the conclusion that little ice ages can start abruptly. Most of the sediment was washed out of Canadian rivers before settling, so it bears witness to the vagaries of climate in the North Atlantic.

    Seafloor sediments are peppered with tiny invertebrates called foraminifera, which Keigwin describes as "amoebas with shells," that can yield clues about the temperature of the ocean in which they lived. Clay and silt from the Nova Scotia region cause the little creatures to accumulate in neatly distinguishable layers, which means a wealth of information. Keigwin subjected the foraminifera in various layers of this core to mass spectroscopic analysis. He coupled that with carbon dating to determine each sediment layer's age.

    Keigwin had expected to find evidence of climate swings during the past few thousand years. But in the CSS Hudson's prize sample, which was drilled with a more precise corer than oceanographers had used previously, he uncovered plenty of data about abrupt temperature changes over the past 1, years, including for a little ice age that averaged about 4 degrees Fahrenheit colder than the present.

    More ominously, "I found evidence that proves the climate cycles continue right up until today. But natural climate cycles that melted Arctic ice could have caused thermohaline circulation to shut down abruptly. Since then, similar high-sediment locations have bolstered his early conclusions. A more recent event is perhaps better evidence that a climate can cool quickly because of thermohaline shutdown. In the late s, a huge blob of near-surface fresher water appeared off the east coast of Greenland, probably the result of a big discharge of ice into the Atlantic in Known as the Great Salinity Anomaly, it drifted southward, settling into the North Atlantic in the early s.

    There it interfered with the thermohaline circulation by quickly arresting deepwater formation in the Labrador Sea. It continued to drift in a counterclockwise direction around the North Atlantic, re-entering the Norwegian Sea in the late s and vanishing soon after. The result was very cold winters, particularly in Europe," says Ruth Curry. That fresher-water mass, fortunately, was small enough to disperse in a short period of time. The one accumulating up there now, however, "is just too big," says Joyce.

    Climate science is extraordinarily complex because it is dependent upon the gathering and interpretation of millions of data points. If the National Weather Service has trouble predicting tomorrow's weather, how can anyone forecast a change in global climate a few years hence? One answer is even more data. At the moment, there are about floating sensors bobbing around in the Atlantic monitoring temperature and salinity changes, and that is not enough, says Ruth Curry. Prediction is tough.

    Europe would be warmer, he says, "even if the Atlantic were just a big, stagnant ocean" because the prevailing westerly winds would still blow heat stored in the Atlantic in the summer to Europe in the winter. Transported Gulf Stream heat, he says, accounts for less than 10 percent of England's warmth relative to the United States. In Seager's view, prolonged winter warmth is more likely than a little ice age. This is a complex, poorly understood variation in the strength of air-pressure cells over Iceland and the Azores. When pressure over Iceland is high, the pressure over the Azores tends to be low, and vice versa.

    During the winter, a lower-than-usual low over Iceland and a higher-than-usual high over the Azores forces cold air to eastern Canada and warm, moist air to northwestern Europe and the eastern United States. That's precisely what has happened from the s to the late s, says Seager, which gave rise to relatively balmy winters in the high-population regions on both sides of the Atlantic. Seager's viewpoint is in the minority. In other models, and climate science is ultimately a battle of different computer models, the Gulf Stream is a major source of warmth for the lands that border the North Atlantic.

    In Ruth Curry's view, the science as it stands is more than strong enough to warrant thinking ahead. The Little Ice Age Basic Books, , by anthropology professor Brian Fagan of the University of California at Santa Barbara, is replete with tales of woe depicting the plight of European peasants during the to chill: famines, hypothermia, bread riots, and the rise of despotic leaders brutalizing an increasingly dispirited peasantry. In the late 17th century, writes Fagan, agriculture had dropped off so dramatically that "Alpine villagers lived on bread made from ground nutshells mixed with barley and oat flour.

    Life was particularly difficult for those who lived under the constant threat of advancing glaciers in the French Alps. One, the Des Bois glacier on the slopes of Mont Blanc, was said to have moved forward "over a musket shot each day, even in the month of August. In early June, the bishop, with villagers gathered around him, blessed the threatening glacier and another near the village of Largenti? For a while, salvation seemed at hand. The glaciers retreated for about 20 years, until But they had left the land so barren that new crops would not grow.

    For an exploration of the science behind another little ice age, see Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises from the National Academy Press, , at books. You might also like. On the very day the bomb cyclone exploded, we learned that was one of the very warmest on record. What's up with all this wild, weird weather — and is it linked to climate change?

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